Peter Bogdanovich on completing ORSON WELLES long awaited THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND for Showtime
On the set of Showtime's upcoming presentation of Orson Welles' final film, The Other Side of the Wind: John Huston, Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich.
Here are Peter Bogdanovich's comments regarding the status of completing The Other Side of the Wind as recorded in San Francisco on March 9, 2008.
Following the interview, I have included the opening narration from Orson Welles original script for The Other Side of the Wind. Welles originally intended to speak the narration himself, but it was never recorded. Given that fact, it seems to me as it would be quite appropriate to have Mr. Bogdanovich speak these lines, instead of Welles, as he is the only major actor from the film still around who could do so.
Of course, another alternative would be to simply hire a good voice-over actor, such as Anthony Hopkins, to read the lines instead. I've also included another interview with Peter Bogdanovich, recorded several years ago when The Cat's Meow was first released, where Mr. Bogdanovich talks about Orson Welles in relation to The Cat's Meow and several other projects.
Three directors: John Huston, Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich at lunch in Carefree, Arizona
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Last March in Florida, you announced that Showtime had finally green-lit plans to finish the editing work on The Other Side of the Wind. Since that time, I’ve heard stories that Oja Kodar had some kind of reservations about actually signing the final contract.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: No, it wasn’t Oja. I don’t want to go into details, but there were some rights we still needed, but hadn't gotten. But Showtime is still going to go forward with the project. We just have to work out of few more of the rights issues. Since then, I’ve actually seen a lot of the footage I hadn’t seen before, because we got into Oja’s vault in Los Angeles which has all the positive footage. I’d only seen about 40 minutes of the film and now I’ve seen quite a lot of new footage. These are scenes we had shot but Orson never showed them to me. I still haven’t seen everything, because there is so much stuff to look at. It’s the dailies and so on and it looks great.
Orson Welles gets down and dirty - on the floor to check out a low angle shot, while cinematographer Gary Graver looks on. Oja Kodar is sitting behind Welles.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: What about the vault in Paris that houses the negative?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: We're working on that still. There’s footage in Paris that I don’t think is here, so there’s a lot of material.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did you see any footage of the fireworks they shoot off outside of Jake Hannaford’s ranch house to celebrate his 70th birthday?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, there were some of the fireworks scenes in there.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Several people who say they know the film say they don’t think there’s enough good material to put The Other Side of the Wind together and make it work. But having read the script and having seen a lot of the footage myself, I think it can be quite a brilliant picture.
Orson Welles lights a cigar between takes.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, and there’s plenty of footage. It’s all been shot and we’re going to couch the entire thing as a kind of documentary about making the film.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Some other objections have been raised about how to best use the film within a film sequences, like the famous ten-minute sex scene between Oja Kodar and Bob Random in the mustang. The objection being, if you cut that scene up or shorten it, it won’t be as effective.
Oja Kodar, effectively lit by Gary Graver to simulate passing headlights during the tour-de-force sex scene between Bob Random and Kodar in the front seat of a Mustang (click to enlarge).
PETER BOGDANOVICH: I don’t think it’s ten minutes, but that scene will be in the picture, but it has to be crosscut with people watching it.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: When you get the final go-ahead on the project, how long do you think it will take to put everything together?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Probably a year or longer. Orson asked me to finish the picture if anything should ever happen to him. One day at lunch in Arizona, we were all sitting around, Orson, Oja, Frank Marshall and myself. Out of the blue, Orson turned to me and said, “if anything ever happens to me I want you to promise me you’ll finish the picture.” I said, “what a terrible thing to say. Why should anything happen to you?” He said, “I know, but just in case it does, I want you to promise me you’ll finish the picture.” I said, “okay, of course I will.” So when Orson died I felt it was incumbent on me to make good on my promise. It’s now been 22 years and I think we are finally going to get it done. I’d say it should happen within the next year. But to catalogue all the material, putting it all together so we know exactly what is there, including what’s in Paris, is going to take almost a year. So there’s still a lot of work to do.
Orson Welles consults with Peter Bogdanovich and Joseph McBride in Bogdanovich's Bel Air home (click to enlarge).
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Will Frank Marshall be helping out on the project?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, Frank will be involved in producing the final version. Of course, Oja will be involved and although Medhi Bouscheri died, his widow wants it to happen, as well. Everybody wants it to happen, but we just had a snag with some people who made problems. Showtime has already got quite a bit tied up in it.
(Here are some of Frank Marshall's comments on the film: We’re working with Showtime on finishing Orson Welles’ last movie, The Other Side of the Wind, which I worked on in the 1970's (as production manager). We have the script. We shot it all—I worked on it for over five years—but we never put it together. Showtime has been incredibly supportive. I’m producing what will be the final movie that Orson directed.)
LAWRENCE FRENCH: In the script, Welles clearly indicates a lot of overlapping dialogue and cutting between different voices coming from tape recorders and so-forth. So you’ll also have to do a lot of elaborate sound editing and add a score to the film.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes and Orson wanted the picture to have a jazz score. It was supposed to be a kind of song score, because there is music playing at Hannaford’s birthday party.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: The French producer of the film, Dominique Antoine said Welles was going to use Michel Legrand to score the film.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Maybe, but I don’t think so, because it was supposed to have a documentary feel. We’ll never really know, because Orson was such a fresh filmmaker he never put anything in stone. He always kept changing his mind and he’d re-do scenes at the last minute. So to know exactly what he would have done is impossible. All you can do is take what’s there and follow his notes and follow your instincts and do the best you can with what he left behind. There are many scenes that he didn’t edit, but he left edited takes, where he cut off the slates and cut off the tail and just left what he wanted to use from the take, so if you follow the script, you realize what take he wanted to use, and what line reading he wanted to use. For example, there’s a line of mine in a scene with John Huston where he had printed two takes. The first part of the first take is great, but the second part of the first take is lousy. But the second part of the second take was good, so he obviously meant to put them together. If you follow what he laid out, you can follow his reasoning.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Cinematographer Gary Graver said most of the film was shot, but there were still a couple of inserts and effects scenes that needed to be filmed, like Hannaford crashing his Porsche behind the drive-in screen.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: I don’t think we need to shoot anything, but we still have to see all the footage, so we’re not entirely sure. But Orson said he didn’t think there was anything left that needed to be shot. We’re going to put the whole thing in the form of a documentary about the making of a film, that was a mockumentary of itself. So we can jump in and say, “we didn’t shoot this.” We won’t connive to do that too often, so we can involve the audience as much as possible, but there will always be an unfinished quality to it, because it is unfinished. If we don’t do that, we’ll have a problem with Beatrice Welles (who controls the Welles estate).
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Because you play the leading role of Brooks Otterlake in the movie, one of the interesting things you might want to do is add the opening narration to the movie, which Welles originally intended to read himself, but it was never recorded.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, we will probably do something like that, because Brooks is the only one around after Hannaford’s death. So he would probably be the one who would put the film together.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did you ever act in any scenes with Lilli Palmer?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: No, all her scenes were shot in Spain. Orson shot wherever he was at the moment.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: I’ve heard stories that John Huston privately expressed misgivings about the film.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: That is so untrue! John tried to finish the film himself, because he loved his own performance and he thought the film was fascinating. He wanted to cut it with his son, Danny Huston, but Oja wouldn’t let him do it. (Danny Huston told The London Times in 2005: I’ve seen the footage. It’s absolutely fascinating.)
John Huston as J. J. Hannaford, smiles benignly for the swarm of cameras that are covering his every move during his 70th birthday party.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: My own thought on how to complete the film would be to hire a really good film editor from the late sixties, like Dede Allen who was so good at doing the kind of staccato cutting that was in fashion at the time, and that Welles intended to use. Or maybe Donn Cambern who edited Easy Rider and I noticed you worked with him on The Last Picture Show.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Donn didn’t really edit The Last Picture Show. I cut the film by myself, by hand, as I did with Targets. The reason Donn got credit was because the editor’s guild said we had to have an editing credit. I said, “I’m not going to take an editor credit.” It would be too much, but I did physically cut the picture. At the time Donn was cutting another picture, Drive, He Said directed by Jack Nicholson, so as a favor, I asked him if he would order the opticals for me, which I had already marked. Then (producer) Bert Schneider said, “What do you want to do about the editor’s credit, we’ve got to give somebody credit.” So I said, well give it to Donn. Then a year or so later I was going to hire Donn for a picture and he wanted to charge me an arm and a leg, so I said, “Donn… just forget it!” No good turn goes un-rewarded.
Left: Welles oversees Gary Graver's shooting of Oja Kodar walking through a maze of buildings in Century City, while Bob Random watches from his motorcycle in the foreground. Right: Welles directs Gary Graver and key grip, J. Michael Stringer on how to shoot Bob Random on his motorcycle for the Antonioni-like film within a film directed by Jake Hannaford: The Other Side of the Wind.
GLENN ANDERS: What would be nice is when The Other Side of the Wind is finally finished, if Orson Welles got an Oscar nomination for best director and John Huston got a nomination for best actor, like Charlie Chaplin got for Limelight, twenty years after that film was made.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? I don’t think it would ever happen though. It would be too much for the Academy.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: If you can somehow get the picture finished by 2009, it would also be a wonderful way to celebrate your own 70th birthday! So on behalf of every one at Wellesnet, we’re wishing you the best of luck on finishing the picture.
Orson Welles watches a run through.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND
The Opening Scene:
A STILL PHOTOGRAPH OF A SPORTS CAR - HIDEOUSLY TWISTED AND BROKEN - GUTTED WITH FIRE.
That's the car... What was left of it
after the accident... If it was an
ANOTHER PHOTO OF THE WRECK
The car was meant to be a present.
Before he changed his mind, Hannaford
was going to give it to the young
leading actor of his last movie -- John Dale.
A PHOTO OF JOHN DALE
Hannaford's supposed to have saved
him -- at some earlier date -- from
Or so the story goes.
ANOTHER PHOTO OF THE WRECK... THEN A SERIES OF FLASH PICTURES MADE AT HANNAFORD'S BIRTHDAY PARTY.
Most of Hannaford's admirers are
certain he did not intend to drive
his car off that bridge.
"A corny ending" they say, "J.J.
Hannaford would never be guilty
There are other opinions...
A SERIES OF PLASH PICTURES OF GUESTS AT THE BIRTHDAY PARTY...
Jake Hannaford was a vagabond...
He worked for Hollywood but he
took his cameras around the world...
When he didn't find himself in
the tropical jungles, the icy
tundra's, or a country where
it was hunting season, the place
where he felt most “at home”
was in Spain... He died
last summer on his birthday,
July second - It's much too early
to guess what history will decide
A FLASH PICTURE OF HANNAFORD.
This was put together from many
sources -- from all that footage
shot by the TV and documentary
film-makers -- and also the students,
critics and young directors who
happened to bring sixteen and eight
millimeter cameras to his birthday
The choice of the material is an
attempt to sketch a film likeness
of the man himself as he looked --
through all those different
A "STILL" FROM HANNAFORD'S FILM.
Hannaford's own unfinished motion
picture is part of the testimony:
"The Other Side Of The Wind"...
It has been left just as it was
when they screened it -- on the
last day of his life.
THE FILM BEGINS...
INTERIOR – SOUND STAGE OF A MOVIE STUDIO
J. J. HANNAFORD is shooting a Turkish bath sequence for his latest movie. The opening credits play under this action, but without any indication that we are watching a movie being shot. The viewer only becomes aware we are on a sound stage watching a movie being filmed when director JAKE HANNAFORD'S voice rings out, bringing the scene to an end.
PETER BOGDANOVICH INTERVIEW
PART TWO - WELLES AND HEARST
LAWRENCE FRENCH: I understand you first heard the story about W. R. Hearst shooting Thomas Ince on his yacht from Orson Welles, and then you ended up making a movie about it, The Cat’s Meow.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, it was originally in the script of Citizen Kane. I was talking to Orson for my book, This Is Orson Welles in 1969 and he said, "you know about the thing that happened on Hearst's yacht?" Herman Mankiewicz had put it in the script, but Orson took it out. Orson said, "Kane was not a murderer." The reason he told me the story, was to illustrate the fact that Kane was not based only on Hearst. If Kane was supposed to have been Hearst, Orson would have included the story, but Kane was actually based several different people.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: It's also interesting to note that Welles told you if he had kept the Hearst murder scene in Citizen Kane there never would have been any trouble with the Hearst newspapers, because Mr. Hearst would never admit that he was a murderer.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, which was an extraordinary irony. And when Orson told me that story it was virtually the same story as what Steven Peros (the screenwriter of Cat’s Meow) has written. The particulars in terms of the letter or the hat, those where details hypothesized by Steven, based on his research, but the actual plot—of what happened and who was doing what and why—that was all the same. Orson had been told the story by Charles Lederer, a screenwriter who had written many films for Howard Hawks, and Lederer was Marion Davies' nephew. Lederer heard the story when he was 12, because he had grown up around Marion Davies. Later on, when I talked to Charlie he confirmed the story.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: It's interesting to note that if Hearst had actually killed his intended target, Charlie Chaplin, I doubt he could have gotten away with the cover-up.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: No, that’s for sure, but you never know.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Many of the characters in The Cat's Meow, were also portrayed by different actors in RKO 281, the HBO movie about the making of Citizen Kane.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, and to be candid, I thought that movie bore very little relationship to the Orson Welles that I knew, or to any of the facts that I knew. It was so filled with errors, that it was painful to observe.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: It lost me right at the start because in the first scene they show Orson Welles at San Simeon, and you would think that most people know that Welles was never at Hearst Castle.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Actually, most people don't know that. Most people haven't even seen Citizen Kane. But for anybody who knows anything about Orson Welles, it's quite clear that he was never at San Simeon and he didn't know Hearst. That's all clearly spelled out in my book, This is Orson Welles. Also, Orson didn't base Citizen Kane on Hearst alone, but also on another press lord from Chicago, Colonel Robert McCormick, who'd had an opera house built for his girlfriend, who was a singer. So that whole aspect of Citizen Kane comes from McCormick, but people incorrectly assumed that it was Hearst, because they were spun to believe that by Louella Parsons. Louella was pissed off because she had been on the set of Citizen Kane and wrote a lot in her column about Orson and the wonderful movie he was making, and then ironically, Hedda Hopper found out that part of the movie was based on Hearst—the part about the Spanish-American War—but not Rosebud, and not Susan Alexander Kane or the political scandal. So Orson always said he though it was Louella and the people around Hearst who made such an issue out of Citizen Kane. Particularly Louella, because she had been scooped by her arch-rival, Hedda Hopper. It was Hedda who blew the whistle and said that Citizen Kane was based on William Randolph Hearst, after Louella had been on the set and been friendly to Orson. It's ironic how it all connects somehow. And if the murder scene had been included in Kane, then Louella wouldn't have said anything, either.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: So Welles whole career could have been quite different if only he had kept that episode in Citizen Kane!
PETER BOGDANOVICH: You've just said a mouthful. It was because of Hearst blackballing the picture, that essentially Orson's career was destroyed. He never had a hit after that. And because of the Hearst ban, Citizen Kane couldn't play at theaters. Most theaters wouldn't play it, or else they booked the picture because they didn't want to be sued, but then they didn't play it. They didn't want to be banned from advertising in Hearst's newspapers.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Why did it take so long to show One Man Band on Showtime. Was it Thomas White and the Welles estate that held it up?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, that added about seven months to the process, but they finally made a deal with Thomas White. There were some other rights problems, as well. They had to clear the rights to Chimes at Midnight and a few other pieces. We re-cut the movie completely and added quite a bit of new footage from Orson's other pictures.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Using younger actors for a period picture like The Cat's Meow is sometimes a problem. They often don’t have period faces.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Kirsten Dunst certainly has a period face, and everybody else in the movie does. They don’t look modern. Lion's Gate and I worked hand in glove, so it was a very good relationship. They made suggestions and we discussed it. They wanted a certain level of names attached to all the parts, and everybody had to take a salary cut, but the thing with Kirsten happened because John Feldheimer at Lion's Gate was talking to Kirsten's manager and said “we have this period thing, would Kirsten like to play Marion Davies in it?” The manager was very smart and said, "I know she likes the twenties, she wants to do a period piece, so sent her the script.” Kirsten read the script, liked it and everybody else liked it, so they all wanted to do it. Ames Cushing was Kirsten’s agent, and he spoke highly of my work with young actors so they called me and told me she wanted to do it. I hadn't seen any of her pictures, except Interview with the Vampire, where she was much younger, but I remembered her being very good in that. So I said let me see a couple of her pictures, and I watched Bring It On and The Virgin Suicides. I thought she was very talented, she has a period face and could play comedy, so she could probably play anything. My old acting teacher, Stella Adler, used to say, "never play your age, darling. Either play younger or older." I asked her "why, Stella?" and she said, "Because it's boring." I told Kirsten that later, to bolster her in case she had any doubts about playing someone older. I didn't have any doubts, though, because I knew she was a good actress and knew she could do it. When I talked to her I told her to lower her voice so that it sounded like you've had a few drinks and that was it. She filled in the rest.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Edward Herrmann was quite marvelous as Hearst.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Wasn't he brilliant? Ed has played all these straight arrows, these sort of heroic figures, like Roosevelt, and this is the first time Ed's had the opportunity, that I can remember, to allow his dark side to show, so that was interesting.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: And it wasn’t like he was this pure bad guy. You really feel sorry for him and understand how he's feeling, especially when he breaks down after shooting his guest of honor.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: I know, that was heartbreaking. The scene when Ed breaks down, that was the first take we shot. They hadn't rehearsed it much, and you can tell that Kirsten was terrified and had no idea of how it was going to play. We just ran through it once, without acting it and then we shot it. Ed broke down like that on the first take, and Kirsten could hardly speak. It was one of the rare times I was very moved on the set, so I just said, "cut it, print it, I don't know how we can do any better." Ed said, "let's try one more," so we did one more, it wasn't better and that was the end of it.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You began your career working as an actor at The American Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Conn, didn't you?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: No, actually, I started out before that, in the summer of 1955 when I was 16, near Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was at a summer stock theater, The Cherry County Playhouse, in Traverse City, Michigan. That was in the years of summer stock with stars, so movie stars who weren't working as much, would take a play on the road and take maybe two people with them, or just come in by themselves and the resident company in each town would rehearse the play that the star was coming in with for about six days, without the star, and then on the seventh day, after the star arrived, we rehearsed with them for a day or two, and we opened and played for a week in the evening. In the daytime we were rehearsing for the next week's play. So I was an apprentice, and acted in a few plays. I had a small part with Sylvia Sydney, changed Edward Everett Horton’s jacket, and by the end of the summer I had a lead role in one of the evening productions, with Signe Hasso. Do you know Signe Hasso?
LAWRENCE FRENCH: She was in George Cukor’s A Double Life.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Right, and she was very funny as the French maid in Lubitsch's Heaven Can Wait and was the lead in DeMille's The Story of Dr. Wassell with Gary Cooper. Anyway, she was touring with this play called Glad Tidings, a pretty good romantic comedy, and I was playing her son, who was supposed to be around 17. She had played it on Broadway, and she gave me a huge compliment. She said, "I just want you to know that you got more laughs out of this part than anyone who has ever played it, including on Broadway. I was just a kid, I hadn't studied or anything, but it turns out I was good at comedy. Then that summer another apprentice actor told me about this great acting teacher, Stella Adler. I said, ”How old to you have to be to get in?” He said, “18,” so when I got back to New York, I applied saying I was 18, even though I was only 16, but I looked older, so I got in. That’s how I started to work with Stella, and then after about a year with Stella, the next summer I went to act at the American Shakespeare Festival at Stratford, Connecticut, when John Houseman was in charge and I was an apprentice or extra in three Shakespeare productions. Then the following summer I did two Shakespeare productions as an extra at Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park festival, in Central Park.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: When you were at Stratford, did you know John Houseman?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Oh, sure, I worked with him and he directed me. He and Orson were on the outs then, but I met Houseman in 1956 long before I met Orson. We didn’t really hit it off. I wasn’t very impressed with him and he wasn’t very impressed with me. But at the time I didn’t know anything about his work with Orson.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Later on, of course you and Welles wrote “The Kane Mutiny” the famous article for Esquire that answered all the one-sided stories John Houseman had told Pauline Kael about Welles that appeared in The Citizen Kane Book.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Yes, Houseman did that because he was so envious and jealous of Orson. He was very hurt because Orson had turned on him, so he was liked a spurned lover. He was really in love with Orson and at one point Orson turned on him angrily, as Orson could do and Jack never forgave him for that. After that Houseman became one of Orson’s worse enemies.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: The break-up between Welles and Houseman was really regrettable, because they did such good work together. Anyway, what I found a bit strange is that both Cary Elwes, who played John Houseman in Tim Robbins' The Cradle Will Rock and Jennifer Tilley who played Aunt Fanny in the remake of The Magnificent Ambersons, ended up being cast in The Cat's Meow. Cary Elwes plays Thomas Ince and Jennifer Tilley plays Louella Parsons in The Cat’s Meow.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: Well, let’s just say I cast Cary Elwes despite being in The Cradle Will Rock. And I hadn’t seen Jennifer in the remake of The Magnificent Ambersons until afterwards, but if I had seen her in it beforehand, I would have cast her despite that, as well. It would be charitable to say that the Ambersons remake was "poor."
LAWRENCE FRENCH: When they first announced the remake of The Magnificent Ambersons, they were supposedly going to use Orson Welles original script.
PETER BOGDANOVICH: No, it wasn’t Orson’s script, not by a long shot!
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Would you be interested in directing any of the scripts Orson Welles left behind, like The Cradle Will Rock?
PETER BOGDANOVICH: I don’t know. I’d have to read it again, but we really need to finish The Other Side of the Wind first.